Literature, Language, and Life

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Lodge’s Epiphany & Paradise of the Blind (Final)

In Lodge’s chapter, Epiphany, he states that an epiphany, in literal terms, is a showing. He says that an epiphany is when “a commonplace event or thought is transformed into a thing of timeless beauty by the exercise of the writer’s craft: ‘when the soul of the commonest object seems to us radiant’.” He believes that any passage in which “external reality is charged with a kind of transcendental significance for the perceiver” is an epiphany. Lodge also says that in fiction the epiphany is usually the climax or the resolution of the story; the moment of truth. He classifies epiphanies as prose fiction. He alleged that prose fiction is the most similar when it comes to the vocal pitch of lyric poetry. Thus being so, he concluded that passages/descriptions, in which epiphanies are applied to, are overflowing with figures of speech and sound. (Lodge, Epiphany)

In relation to Hang’s story in, Paradise of the Blind, an epiphany can be found in the end. In chapter 12, Hang says:

“A full moon shone through the dark crown of the trees. A few stars shimmered. I stood there motionless, staring at them. Never in my life had I felt, with such sharpness, the passing of time. Like watching the tail of a comet plummet and disappear into nothingness. Like the span of my life.” (Duong, pg. 258)

* In the quote, Hang comes to the sudden realization that time has evaded her. In reference to Lodge when he stated that an epiphany is when “a commonplace event or thought is transformed into a thing of timeless beauty…” in the beginning of this quote there is a sort of effortless beauty given to us by the description of the night. It is through this description that she comes to understand that her life has passed her by and it isn’t until this exact moment that she feels the true length of time.

Hang continues this thought when she says:

“Comets extinguish themselves, but memory refuses to die, and ‘hell’s money’ has no value in the market of life.” (Duong, pg. 258)

* When Hang says ‘comets’ she actually means ‘people’. She comes to the realization that people ruin themselves, they burn themselves out, however our memory will always be there. By ‘hell’s money’ she means suffering. Hang is saying that suffering has no real value in comparison to life.Which is in direct opposition to the communist beliefs that all people really need is material wealth and if you give it to them, they’re set.

Her epiphany has made her come to her final conclusion, as shown, when she says:

“Forgive me, my aunt: I’m going to sell this house and leave all of this behind. We can honor the wishes of the dead with a few flowers on a grave somewhere. I can squander my life tending these faded flowers, these shadows, the legacy of past crimes” (Duong, pg. 258)

* This is the resolution to Hang’s troubled life. Living her life under the oppression of her uncle who only ever wants her when he needs money, starving, and barely getting any attention from her own mother because all her mother wants to do is get in good graces with Uncle Chinh, and etc. Now, despite her Aunt Tam’s wishes to stay, Hang has decided that she cannot allow her past to hold her captive and must move forward in order to find herself and her peace.

Although an epiphany is literally a showing, Hang has an epiphany when her mother finally tells her about her father, Ton. The epiphany is apparent in the line:

“Perhaps it was my suffering that made my mother change her mind, made her tell me about her husband, about the father I never knew; and for the first time, I saw him clearly.” (Duong, pg .59)

*This isn’t exactly a sudden realization as Lodge states epiphanies are, however it is a showing. Knowing who her father is, Hang gains more sense of self. She sees a part of her, a very important part, for the very first time after being hidden for all these years. Its an opening in a way. An opening of her understanding. Finally knowing the story of her father, that part of Hang is at ease. Throughout the duration of the novel Hang grows mentally and intellectually, similar to a coming of age story. Her understanding of her father helps her understand the attention Aunt Tam desires from her as well as her mothers state.

Kennaz Kayal


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